Records were broken and the West Division was clinched Saturday afternoon at Bulldog Stadium in the undefeated Fresno State football team’s 69-28 rout of the New Mexico Lobos.
Fresno State, 10-0 for the third time in school history and 7-0 in the Mountain West, will play in the conference’s inaugural championship game on Dec. 7, held at the home site of the divisional champion with the highest BCS ranking.
“I’m extremely impressed and proud of our football team,” said Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter. “We knew it was going to be a challenge, but once again our guys answered the call in a way that reflects very well on them as well as our school.”
Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr, in his final regular-season home game, completed 27 of 37 for 527 yards. His seven touchdowns set the school’s single-game record. Davante Adams, a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award recognizing the nation’s top receiver, caught nine passes for 246 yards and a record-tying four touchdowns in the contest.
Carr, who nears the end of a storied five-year career as a Bulldog, made his case as a Heisman Trophy hopeful, said DeRuyter, who is 12-0 at Bulldog Stadium as head coach.
“[Carr’s] as good as there is in the country,” DeRuyter said. “That’s why I think it’s very well-deserved that he should be in the Heisman discussion. He’s led us to a 10-0 record, which is the most important thing for a quarterback.
“Statistically, he has to be up there with anyone in the country.”
“The No. 1 goal is to win the game,” Carr said. “I don’t care about the touchdowns and the stats. I just want to win. That’s what we’re based off of and that’s what we want to do.”
The Bulldogs began the scoring at the eight-minute mark of the first quarter with a 57-yard pass from Carr to Adams. After New Mexico went three-and-out with nearly three minutes remaining in the quarter, Fresno State scored in its first play of the ensuing drive when running back Josh Quezada ran 33 yards to the end zone for a 14-0 lead.
In the second quarter, the wide receiver trio of Adams, Isaiah Burse and Josh Harper each scored a touchdown to give Fresno State a five-score lead. Burse’s touchdown was the result of a “fumblerooski” trick play – one that Fresno State last performed in its home-finale matchup against Air Force last season.
“I should have three [Biletnikoff Award] semifinalists,” Carr said. “[Adams] is unbelievable. The thing I love about my receivers is that the [opposing] defense has to choose which one to double-team. I’m so blessed to be the quarterback here because of those guys.”
After the half, New Mexico (3-8, 1-6 MW) used its highly touted rushing attack and running back Crusoe Gongbay ran for a 15-yard touchdown for the Lobos’ first score. Nearly two minutes later, the Bulldogs answered with a score of their own: a 59-yarder Carr-to-Adams that kept Fresno State well ahead.
On the next drive, with New Mexico facing a fourth-and-5, quarterback Clayton Mitchem, second in rushing yards for the Lobos, finished a 24-yard run in the end zone to give the Lobos their second score. Fresno State led 42-14 after the play.
“That one was on me,” said Fresno State defensive end Nikko Motta. “I missed a tackle. It’s one that I have to make. But we should never take the foot off the pedal.”
And Fresno State would fire back. On the second play of the ensuing drive, Carr launched a strike to Harper, who held onto the ball and dragged his defender into the end zone for the score.
Down 56-14, Lobos wide receiver Carlos Wiggins caught Fresno State kicker Colin McGuire’s kickoff and ran it 89 yards for an immediate New Mexico score.
With 2:22 left in the third quarter, Carr threw his last regular-season touchdown pass at Bulldog Stadium. It was a 39-yard strike to Adams that capped a 74-yard drive and gave Fresno State a 63-21 lead.
At the end of the third quarter, Carr handed the ball off to Marteze Waller for 4 yards, and then walked off the field to raucous cheers from the sold-out crowd.
“The people of Fresno continue to show me how much I love them and how much I care about why I decided to come here,” Carr said. “Coming off the field to a standing ovation, to clap for all of us seniors who put the time here, that’s just class.
“That’s why I love them so much, and hopefully we can bring a championship here.”
With the second-string players in, running back Malique Micenheimer completed a 1-yard handoff from quarterback Brian Burrell to make it 69-21 early in the fourth quarter.
But the Lobos were not finished yet. Running back Jhurell Pressley completed an 80-yard run to trim Fresno State’s lead to 69-28.
The victory gave the Bulldogs a West Division championship and ensured them a spot in the Mountain West Championship game on Dec. 7. But there is one more regular-season game to play.
On Nov. 29, Fresno State will visit the San Jose State Spartans, who, at 5-6, need to win against the Bulldogs to become eligible for a bowl game.
“It’s a quick turnaround for San Jose,” Carr said. “We have to enjoy this win, then get ready for San Jose tomorrow.”